Trees on private property

Guide for managing trees on private property.

Questions on TPOs

What is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?

It is an order made by a local planning authority which (in general) makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the planning authority’s permission. The purpose of a TPO is to protect trees which make a significant impact on their local surroundings. This is particularly important where trees are in immediate danger.

What types of trees are covered by a TPO?

All kinds of trees may be covered by a TPO, including mature trees as well as saplings and low-growing species. Shrubs and formal hedgerows cannot be covered by a TPO. The order can cover anything from a single tree to woodlands.

How can I find out if a tree is covered by a TPO?

Details of the trees that are protected can be found on the Schedule of Tree Preservation Orders in Lambeth.

An official search of the local land charges register can also be made before you purchase a property. This should reveal the existence of a tree preservation order (or whether your property is in a conservation area). Make sure your solicitor tells you if any trees are protected.

How does the council decide which trees to protect?

We may make TPOs:

  • to protect important trees or groups of trees, which are under threat
  • to strengthen a planning condition for the protection of existing trees or trees to be planted as a requirement of a planning condition
  • to protect trees considered to be of special value in a particular area, even though there is no direct threat to them
  • to protect a woodland area by securing the replanting of trees which have been felled with the council's consent.

How is a TPO made?

There are two ways of making a TPO:

  1. We may give notice of our intention to make a TPO to the owner and occupiers of the land, who have 28 days from the date of notice in which to comment. Any comments received will be taken into account and a decision reached on whether or not the order should be confirmed. The order does not take effect until it has been confirmed by us.
  2. Alternatively, we may make a Provisional TPO, which takes effect immediately on the date specified, providing protection for the trees. A Provisional TPO may be used in situations where the council considers the existence of the trees to be under immediate threat. Comments may still be made within 28 days from the date of notice and will be taken into account before the council decides if the TPO is to be confirmed. A Provisional TPO must, however, be confirmed within six months of the date of the order, otherwise the protection afforded to the trees expires.

How will I know when the council makes a TPO?

We will write to the owner and other interested parties, enclosing a copy of the order.

How can I object to or express support for an order?

If you or anyone else wants to object to or support an order, write to us within the period that we allow (usually 28 days) saying why, and giving details of the relevant trees. We will take these comments into account when deciding whether to confirm the order.

Can I request a TPO?

Yes. Anyone can write to us making a request for a TPO. Any such request should include details of the location of the trees and reasons why a TPO should be made.

Factors of relevance might include:

  • exceptional landscape or townscape value
  • particular importance in terms of location or setting
  • rare species or historical wildlife significance.

We will consider your request and start making a TPO if we agree with your assessment.

Does the council then become responsible for looking after the trees?

No. The owner remains responsible for the trees, their condition and any damage they may cause. But our permission is required before carrying out work on them, unless they are dying, dead or dangerous. We may be able to offer appropriate help and advice on how the trees should be managed.

How do I get consent to carry out works to protected trees?

Anyone can apply for consent. However, if consent is granted, it does not confer any legal right to carry out the work and the applicant should make sure that any necessary permission is obtained from the owner of the tree(s).

Should an application for consent be refused, or granted subject to conditions, you may, if you so wish, appeal in writing, to the Planning Appeals Commission. Consent is not required for the removal of trees that are dead, dying or dangerous. However, the landowner will have to replant replacement trees of appropriate size and species, in the same location as soon as they reasonably can. Anyone who is unsure whether a tree falls within the exemption is advised to obtain the advice of an arboriculturist.

How long will it take to get permission?

We will usually write to you to tell you our decision within eight weeks.
If the tree is within a conservation area, you will usually hear from us within six weeks.

What if my application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused, or I object to the conditions imposed by the planning authority?

You can appeal to the Secretary of State in writing within 28 days of receiving the decision. The planning authority should give the address.

Appeals are normally decided without a formal hearing, on the basis of written statements followed by a site visit.

The Secretary of State may allow or dismiss the appeal, or vary the original decision.

Do I always need the planning authority's permission to work on a protected tree?

Yes, except for cutting down or cutting back a tree, which is:

  • dying, dead, or dangerous
  • in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament
  • at the request of certain organisations specified in the order
  • directly in the way of development that is about to start, for which detailed planning permission has been granted
  • in a commercial orchard, or pruning fruit trees in accordance with good horticultural practice
  • likely to cause a legal nuisance (you may find it helpful to check first with a solicitor).

If I don't need the council's permission, do I still have to inform them of any work I intend to carry out?

Except in an emergency, you are advised to give us at least five days notice before you cut down a protected tree that is dying, dead or dangerous. This is in your interest - you could be prosecuted if we think that you have carried out unauthorised work. We could also decide that you do not have to plant a replacement tree. You must remember, however, that you will remain responsible for your trees and any damage that they may cause.

What happens if I carry out works on a protected tree without permission?

It is a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully destroy or damage a tree in a manner likely to destroy it, without our consent, and, on summary conviction, you could be fined up to £20,000 (and on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine). In determining the fine, the Court may take into account any financial benefit that appears likely to have accrued as a result of the offence. It will also be the duty of the landowner to plant replacement trees of appropriate size and species in the same location as soon as reasonably possible.

When will I have to plant a replacement tree?

You will have to replant if you cut down or destroy a protected tree:

  • in breach of an order (except in the case of woodland, because the tree is dying, dead or dangerous, unless the planning authority says you need not)
  • if the planning authority gives you permission to cut down a protected tree but makes replanting a condition of this consent
  • in most cases where the Forestry Commission grants a felling licence.

The council has legal powers to ensure that you plant a replacement tree when required.

Can I get compensation if my application to carry out work on protected trees or woodland is refused or conditions are imposed?

If consent is refused, or granted with conditions, you can seek compensation from us for any loss or damage which results. However, you cannot make a claim where, under the terms of the order, we have issued a certificate saying either:

  • that the refusal or condition is in the interests of good forestry


  • that the trees or woodland have an outstanding or special amenity value.

You can appeal to the Secretary of State against such a certificate. We will not be able to issue these certificates under TPOs that are made after 2 August 1999. But, we will be able to issue them under orders made before that date.

Where a felling licence application has been refused by the Forestry Commission, you may get compensation from the Commission under the relevant forestry legislation.

Replanting of woodland

You can also seek compensation from us, on giving permission to cut down protected woodland, which has required replacement planting. But, such compensation is only available if the Forestry Commission will not grant for the replanting on the grounds that it would not be in accordance with good forestry practice.

How do I go about claiming compensation under a tree preservation order?

Write to us within 12 months of the decision, or to the Secretary of State if you appealed.

Are there any extra restrictions in a conservation area?

Yes. In relation to trees that are not protected by tree preservation orders, you must give your local planning authority six weeks' notice in writing if you want to carry out work on them. You must not carry out any work during that period without permission. If you do, you could be fined up to £20,000. You may also have to plant a replacement tree.

However, you do not need permission if you want to cut down or work on trees that are less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter (measured 1.5 metres above the ground) or 10 centimetres if thinning to help the growth of other trees.

Can I carry out work on protected trees that are in the way of proposed development?

You can only cut down or cut back protected trees if they are directly in the way of development which is about to start, for which you have detailed planning permission. You cannot carry out tree work if you have outline planning permission. The council may prosecute you if it thinks that you have cut down or cut back excessively.

If the development does not require planning permission (for example, putting up a garden shed) then you must apply to the council for permission under the tree preservation order in the normal way.

Can I stop planning permission being granted - or prevent approved development being carried out – by getting a tree preservation order imposed on trees on the site?

No. A tree preservation order does not prevent planning permission being granted. But, the council will consider the risk to protected trees when deciding planning applications.

Once detailed planning permission is granted, any felling may be carried out which is directly required to enable the development to go ahead.